The New Jersey Assembly unanimously approved a bill Thursday 73-0 that would limit access to data from recording devices in automobiles that capture information about the driver’s activity to car owners and certain qualified individuals and officials.
Rep. Paul Moriarty, D-Camden/Gloucester, and Rep. Daniel Benson, D-Mercer/Middlesex, who sponsored the bill, said that nearly all automobiles manufactured within the last few years have an “event recording device” installed, which record information about vehicle speed, seatbelt use, airbag deployment and locations traveled, and that information needs to be carefully guarded.
The lawmakers said the information that EDRs can provide is valuable for investigations and as evidence in court cases, but they cautioned that passing their legislation is necessary to make sure that the data is used properly and that the privacy rights of car owners aren’t violated.
“Crash data retrieved from a vehicle’s black box can play a critical role in determining what exactly happened at the time of an accident, but it’s always essential that sensitive information doesn’t get into the wrong hands,” Benson said in a statement Thursday. “This legislation eliminates the ambiguity about whether this information is the property of the car’s owner, its manufacturer or someone else. Even more importantly, this bill promotes drivers’ safety while guarding their privacy.”
Under bill A-3579, only qualified persons other than the owner of the motor vehicle or the owner’s representative, are allowed to retrieve, obtain or use data recorded, stored or transmitted from the device.
Those individuals include law enforcement personnel with a search warrant; a licensed motor vehicle dealer, servicing facility, or mechanic using the information to service or repair the vehicle; an emergency response provider using the data to facilitate an emergency medical response, or an attorney or court officer seeking to obtain data for a proper discovery request or order in a civil action.
“The preservation of electronic data from any of these sources is becoming vital to the defense of litigation in accidents,” Moriarty said in a statement. “These recordings may be the most reliable and objective source of information about the events that occurred just prior to a crash. This legislation is necessary to preserve the integrity of the recordings and protect what may be used as evidence in court.”
The bill also permits the data to be accessed for the purpose of improving motor vehicle safety as long as the identity of the owner or any occupant of the vehicle is not disclosed, or anytime the owner or the owner’s representative consents in writing to another party’s data retrieval.
The legislation also allows a subscription service provider to access the data if the subscription service agreement discloses that the data may be recorded, stored, and transmitted.
The bill also prohibits tampering with the data on a recording device or destruction of a device in order to prevent access to the recorded data after a fatal or injury-causing crash for a period of two years. It establishes a $5,000 civil penalty for a violation.
Lastly, the bill establishes a refutable presumption that a vehicle recycler or scrap recycling facility has no knowledge of the involvement of a vehicle in a crash event that resulted in bodily injury or death.
Thursday’s 73-0 approval gives the bill final legislative approval and it will now head to the governor’s desk.